Most people who are regular readers of this blog or on my mailing list would know that I organise the JBSS Coffee & Chat Club (business networking group) and Business Growth Sessions here in Brisbane, Australia, and that I’m a fan of networking – online and off.
One comment I often hear from people when they attend events is how beneficial they have found them and how they know they need to go to more networking events – and how they tend to give them a low priority.
It seems that a lot of people, women in particular, see ‘networking’ as a treat; as something they can do when their families’ and customers’ needs are taken care of… if they have any time left.
I believe that business networking, if done correctly, can be vital for business growth, especially for word-of-mouth and referral marketing.
How do you do it correctly, so as to make the most of your time? Here are some tips:
1. Decide how many networking events you will attend each month/week (one a week is a good goal, more if time and finances permit).
2. Find out what relevant events are scheduled, starting with your local area. You will usually find a number of events at varying times – breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, evening – so look for those that best fit your timetable.
3. Plan which events you will attend; book and pay where necessary; then write them into your diary.
4. Make sure you keep your appointment. Sometimes it’s tempting to cancel at the last minute because:
- you’ve got too much other ‘stuff’ to do
- you won’t know anyone else
- the kids are playing up
- it’s too much effort
- you’re too tired…
Yet if you push yourself to attend, you’ll almost always be glad you went once you’re there.
5. If attending events/meetings that are held regularly, perhaps through member-based organisations, go along to various sessions to get a feel for the people and activities. Once you’re familiar with them, I suggest choosing a small number of groups and participating in these groups and their events as much as possible. You will gain (and give) much more by focusing on a small number of groups than if you are a member of every group under the sun but don’t have time to really join in.
6. When at networking events, don’t try to talk to everyone there and shove as many business cards as possible into everyone’s hands nor push your products/services on people. I have found that these events are a great way to briefly chat with several people, and when you meet someone you feel comfortable with, someone you ‘click’ with, or someone where perhaps you feel your businesses can help each other in some way, swap business cards and suggest that you get together soon for a coffee. Relationships take time to develop and this is where you’ll find most benefit – building relationships, building trust and helping others.
7. Before you throw yourself headfirst into networking, grab any of the books about networking written by Robyn Henderson (she’s written a few – most are available in book stores and through libraries).
8. If getting out of the office/house to attend networking events really is a challenge for you, consider online networking at one of the many business forums that are around. If you do this, I find it helpful to schedule the time into my calendar and stick to that time-plan – otherwise you’ll easily spend all day there chatting!
9. Have fun!
Here’s to your business success…